$2.8 million grant allows WSU to continue to lead NASA in Kansas efforts


For the fourth consecutive time, the Wichita State College of Engineering’s NASA in Kansas program has secured a multi-year, multi-million-dollar grant. NASA in Kansas is a consortium of universities and science museums that conduct research and outreach activity in support of NASA. The latest four-year award is for $2.8 million. 

Some version of the NASA in Kansas program has existed since 1991. WSU became the lead institution in 2007. Other members of the consortium include: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, University of Kansas, Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center and Exploration Place. 

“Together we favorably impact lots of students, faculty, NASA and the state of Kansas,” said Dr. Scott Miller, director of the NASA in Kansas program and chair of WSU’s aerospace engineering department. 

The mission of NASA in Kansas is to serve as a catalyst for Kansas to lead in STEM-based education, research, industry and policy. Under this mission umbrella, NASA in Kansas sponsors internships at NASA centers, fellowships and scholarships for students, as well as workshops for teachers. 

In the past two years, three WSU students interned at NASA through this program, including Lucas Webb and Kelly Shelts, who worked on rotocraft design at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and Brianna Wallace, who worked at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, creating virtual reality environments to test human factors in space flight. 

NASA in Kansas also sponsors NASA mission directorate projects. At WSU, this includes the Jump Start Program (JSP) and Experiential Aerospace Fellowship (EAF), programs that employ WSU engineering students in aeronautics-related research and outreach efforts.

“In the past year, JSP and EAF students have worked on NASA-relevant research on a variety of topics,” said Kerry Majher, NASA in Kansas program coordinator.  In addition, WSU was able to send a team to NASA Student Launch Initiative (SLI) competition in Huntsville, Alabama, where they placed in the top 10 nationally. An increase in funding with this latest award will allow sponsorship of more projects across the state, she said.

As a Jump Start participant, student Linda Harl has been running Dr. Miller’s Aerospace Projects and Prototyping Lab. This summer she will work with Dr. Atri Dutta, associate professor of aerospace engineering, doing interplanetary mission analysis and examining launch trajectories for spacecraft that travel between planets.  

Since 2008, WSU has also been the lead institution for the Kansas NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Program, which awards research grants in support of NASA’s strategic objectives. In Kansas, these grants support research in the areas of health and well-being, aviation and transportation, bioscience, materials science and energy and environment. EPSCoR grants encourage partnerships with industry. A prime example is the three-year $750,000 grant awarded to Dr. Bhisham Sharma, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering, who is leading research into a next-generation acoustic liner for aircraft engines in order to reduce impacts from aircraft noise and expand where planes may fly. The work is being done in collaboration with ERG Materials and Aerospace Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems. 

Additional information about NASA in Kansas Space Grant and EPSCoR programs can be found at www.nasainkansas.org Following the re-opening of campus on May 26, NASA in Kansas will once again be open in Wallace Hall 113B. Students and faculty are welcome to drop by.


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